Firefighters, Sprinkler Keep Monday Fire from Spreading

Fire personnel are investigating the cause of a two-alarm fire Monday, Feb. 16, that left a family temporarily displaced.

The fire was called in at 3:36 p.m. by neighbors who reported a garage fire at 3 Alder Court. Engines 1, 2, 3 and 4 along with Car 1 were dispatched, according to a press release by Battalion Chief Jack Webb. Crews arrived at 3:44 p.m.

Webb wrote that upon arrival, the fire personnel found a two-stall attached garage fully enflamed, and the fire was beginning to spread to the two-story wood-framed home. Due to the extreme cold, more water supply and more crews for rotation were requested.

The garage quickly collapsed, according to Webb, though large portions of the roof remained intact and helped the fire from spreading to the home. This also extended the time crews had to fight the fire, according to Webb.

The home was protected by residential sprinklers. A sprinkler head between the garage and house was activated and helped prevent the fire from spreading. The sprinkler system ran out of water as the Derry fire crews deployed lines to the interior of the building. The fire extended to part of the attic and roof of the farmer’s porch, and smoke damage rendered the rest of the house uninhabitable until it can be professionally cleaned.

The garage and its contents are considered a complete loss and the loss from the fire, including the garage’s contents, is estimated at $150,000.

A 14-year-old girl was the only person home; she left by the front door of the house. She was in the basement at the time and because of the sprinkler system, was able to leave uninjured.

A dog was also rescued and was uninjured.

Webb said in a phone interview Tuesday that the sprinkler system helped save the teen and the rest of the home. “The daughter was in the basement,” he said. “When she heard the sprinkler system she came up the stairs and evacuated herself. I met her in the driveway.” The smoke detector did not go off, Webb added.

With a garage full of machinery and equipment the fire was “burning so hot we couldn’t go near it,” Webb said. “The fire reached into the house and the sprinkler was set off by the heat.”

The sprinkler system met the National Fire Protection Association standard, he said.

The family consists of a mother and father, who were not home at the time, and the daughter.

Mutual aid was provided by Chester, Londonderry, Hampstead, Salem, Hudson, Atkinson, Auburn, Windham and Manchester. Mutual aid also responded to several other calls during this time period, including a water problem with a ceiling collapse at Shaw’s Supermarket. Station coverage was provided by Raymond, Pelham, Hooksett and Danville.

The fire was under control at 5 p.m.

Battalion Chief Michael Gagnon, who is Interim Fire Chief following the retirement of George Klauber, said that fighting fire in the winter presents unique conditions.

“One big factor,” he said, “is that the equipment freezes. Any water that touches the ground also freezes.”

The regulators inside the self-contained breathing apparatus also freeze, he said.

The deep snow this winter presents other problems, with crews having to wade through 3 feet of snow to run hose lines in the back, he said.

Fortunately, Gagnon said, a neighbor offered the use of his garage as a staging area, and the crews were able to find respite from the cold before going back out.

The Derry Salvation Army provided hot beverages and other services to the crews.

Gagnon said the cause of the fire would be released later this week by the Derry Fire Investigation Bureau. It is not thought to be suspicious.